Two days before the deadline hits for 35,000 casino workers to strike on the Las Vegas Strip, the culinary union has reached a tentative agreement with Caesars Entertainment. The Culinary Workers Union Local 226 says it has been negotiating with employers at three big powerhouse employers — Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts, and Wynn Resorts — for seven months. About 40,000 of the union's 60,000 members have been working under an expired contract since mid-September.
A spokesperson for the union issued a statement to Eater Vegas on Wednesday, November 8, saying, “After 20 straight hours of negotiations, Culinary Union is pleased to announce a tentative agreement towards a new five-year contract has been reached with Caesars Entertainment for approximately 10,000 hospitality workers at nine Vegas properties.”
Tuesday’s negotiations with Caesars wrapped up at around 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, with what Ted Pappageorge, the union’s secretary-treasurer, said was a historic contract. During a press conference on Wednesday, Pappageorge said that the agreement with Caesars accomplished the union’s big three priorities: winning financial packages of wages, health care, and pension plans that increased substantially from the previous five-year contract; agreements for processes of introducing AI and robotics into the workplace; and securing daily room cleanings.
Cherie Earl, a cocktail server at Mandalay Bay, said during the conference that the primary concern for her and fellow food service employees was that of technology taking away jobs. “Technology is the reason we want to strike if we do not get strong language,” said Earl. “We have lost jobs due to tech. We know tech is inevitable but want to be prepared and have language to protect all of us and our jobs.”
Pappageorge said that AI combined with robotics can eliminate jobs — and that the remaining duties get transferred to existing employees’ workloads. Protections in the Caesars deal include language that employers must alert the union six months before introducing technology that could reduce or alter jobs so that employees can prepare or receive another encoded protection — mandatory training. Another protection stated in the Caesars deal is that of a significant increase in pay, as well as benefits for employees who are pushed out of a job due to changes in technology.
The union scheduled a last run of tense negotiations this week, meeting with Caesars on Tuesday, November 7, with MGM on Wednesday, November 8, and Wynn on Thursday, November 9. The meetings are final-hour efforts for corporate leaders who want to prevent a strike and culinary union organizers who are advocating for higher wages and more comprehensive benefits for its members. The union has ramped up its activity in Vegas over the past month, staging demonstrations and picketing in front of casinos.
While the agreement with Caesars means that about 10,000 of the union’s represented workers now have a contract on the table, about 25,000 workers with MGM and Wynn are still waiting to see if they will walk off the job on Friday morning. The contract with Caesars still has to go through a ratification process in which the 10,000 members will vote on whether to accept the contract — or reject it and issue a new strike deadline.
A strike would hit hard at the city’s economic backbone and massively hinder operations with Nevada’s three largest gaming employers. Those employers are already seeking threadbare contingency plans — MGM Resorts is directing management employees to obtain alcohol management cards, a statewide requirement for serving alcohol, the Nevada Current reported.
The union was granted extra bargaining power due to the upcoming Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix, which kicks off on November 15. It’s expected to draw 120,000 people and bring in $1.3 billion to the city. A strike on the Las Vegas Strip would mean tens of thousands of bartenders, cooks, cocktail and food servers, guest room attendants, porters, bellmen, laundry, and kitchen workers statewide would walk off the job, creating massive gaps in service for the high-paying race attendees. Additionally, the union is asking race attendees not to cross picket or strike lines and to refrain from patronizing properties where there is a labor dispute.
The union’s goal is to work with the three employers to approve new five-year contracts that would include provisions such as expanded safety measures, health care benefits, and the largest pay increase ever negotiated in the history of the union. The tentative agreement with Caesars means protections for employees of its properties, which include Caesars Forum, Caesars Palace, Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, Horseshoe Las Vegas, Paris Las Vegas, Planet Hollywood Las Vegas Resort & Casino, the Cromwell Las Vegas, and the LINQ Hotel + Experience.
An agreement is yet to be reached with MGM Resorts International, which includes its properties Aria Resort and Casino, Bellagio Hotel & Casino, Excalibur Hotel & Casino, Luxor Hotel, Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, MGM Grand, New York-New York Hotel & Casino and Park MGM Las Vegas. An agreement is also yet to be reached with Wynn Resorts’ two properties, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore Resort. A walkout could still happen if deals aren’t reached by 5 a.m. Friday, November 10, with MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts. It would potentially be the largest hospitality strike in U.S. history.